Wigan Warriors Chairman Ian Lenagan says his fellow Super League club-owners have welcomed Toulouse Olympique into the competition “with open arms.”
Lenagan was at Stade Gilbert Brutus for Saturday’s France-England international and he spoke exclusively to League Express about his “delight” at the recent growth of Rugby League in France and the potential offered by the promotion of a second French club to the top-flight.
“It’s great news that this city is now part of Super League,” he said.
“I don’t think many people among the ownership of Super League clubs question the value of Toulouse to the competition now.
“I spend a lot of time with fellow owners and I would say that at least 75 per cent, if not 85 per cent, support the fact that Toulouse are coming to Super League.
“It’s a very positive development for our game and once the fans get to know Toulouse, I think they will grasp it with both arms; it is a great addition to our game.”
Wigan’s Chairman has a second home close to Toulouse and he believes the new Super League side will bring a new dimension to the competition.
He added, “The commercial backing and support that the club has already in one of France’s biggest cities is very impressive.
“I have been to the ‘Table D’Ovale’, which is the regular social meeting of partners and sponsors of the club and what an impressive and prestigious organisation that is. If I had one of those in Wigan I would be utterly delighted; they have the backing of so many influential businessmen and women.
“This club is well run and well supported and I am sure they will go very well in Super League.
“I think a lot of English Rugby League fans are unaware of just how French Toulouse is. It’s a big city, it has a great ambience, it’s known as the pink city because of its terracotta architecture it’s absolutely gorgeous and I think the Wigan supporters, like any other Rugby League supporters, will find the difference of a big city experience very enjoyable.”
Lenagan said he had “no time” for the current mood of negativity in certain sectors of the game and stressed the importance of positivity as the game tries to recover from the financial impact of Covid.
He added, “Rugby League, unfortunately, talks itself down far too much. When you look at the growth here in France, and the increase the whole game has had in viewing figures on television, it has gone up by 10-15 per cent over the last three years.
“The last two seasons have been absolutely awful because of Covid and they have tested us all to the extreme, but when you see that kind of growth in appeal for television broadcasters, and you know that you have a great product on the field, you know you are heading in the right direction.
“I just wish that some people weren’t so negative all of the time about the sport.
“Now we’ve got the fourth biggest city in France joining our competition, we should be proud of it and we should be talking our game up.
“I don’t know why we keep knocking ourselves, it’s a mystery to me.”
Lenagan is a regular visitor to Stade Gilbert Brutus and he is looking forward to spending more time in France now that Toulouse have been promoted.
“It’s always nice to be here in Perpignan, it’s always a pleasure and particularly today because we are not here supporting Wigan, we are supporting England, which is rather nice, no pressure at all.
“And it’s great to see a Wigan player as captain too; we are very proud of John Bateman.
“We have worked very hard with Catalans to engage with them and it’s clear that our fans love coming here and we are also looking forward to visiting Toulouse now.
“There is a positive mood at both of these clubs and it is something we should take on board with open arms.”
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